Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Roys Lagoon Birdlife, Mt Hay Station, Mackenzie Country

Tues 08.12.15. I parked my car beside Lilybank Rd in Lake Tekapo Regional Park & wandered up Ebenezer Ln through pine forest. About 1 km up the gravel lane, I crossed Mt Hay Station fence by a locked gate, as I wanted to birdwatch at Roys Lagoon about 4 kms away. Map ref: BY17 029268. As Mt Hay Station is a working sheep station permission must be obtained from owners before any climbing / walks on the station.

I followed a farm track past stony, moraine hills & a dry dam, then continued along the farm track, rounding a grassy, moraine hill to a farm gate by a series of willowed tarns. I saw two foraging, pied stilts & several paradise shelducks on the tarns. Five black swans flew off towards Roys Lagoon, a hidden lagoon in a glacial kettle hole, unseen from Mt John summit above Lake Tekapo.

A spur winged plover stood on a tarn shore while I wandered past, with grand views of Mt Edward, Mt Maud, Mt Dobson, Mt Ardmore & Mt Hay. I followed another farm track past a dry tarn & rounded another grassy, moraine hill towards the homestead & Roys Lagoon.

I wandered the grassy, moraine hill south of Roys Lagoon, as it gave high views of the lagoon. I saw flocks of ducks, too small & distant to identify with my binoculars, but flocks of Canada geese, black swans & brown cygnets were easy to see floating on Roys Lagoon. I spotted a couple of Australasian harriers soaring & hunting rabbits. Ditto a NZ falcon flapping its wings, hovering & hunting too. A couple of black backed gulls & a southern pied oystercatcher flew by.

As the moraine hillside was north facing, there were many alpine cushion plants & mat plants, Raoulia & Scleranthus species, amongst purple topped grasses & tussocks. Light green, Raoulia scabweed bloomed masses of tiny, yellow flowers, pollinated by scurrying, NZ native bees, their pollen sacs full. An olive green Raoulia species had slightly bigger, matted foliage & creamy flowers.

I returned to my car, over moraine hill country, via another series of dry & watered tarns, closer to Lilybank Rd. The circular walk was about 10 kms. A shorter, more direct walk to Roys Lagoon can be done from Mt Hay Station homestead, situated 8 kms along Lilybank Rd.

Copyright Mark JS Esslemont.

Monday, December 7, 2015

Old Woolshed & Mt Maud, Mt Hay Station, Mackenzie Country

Tues 01.12.15. I parked my car about 10 kms along Lilybank Rd below Mt Hay, as I wanted to walk to the Old Woolshed on Mt Hay Station below Mt Maud & Mt Dobson. Map ref: BY17 062283. It was a vast watershed, draining streams from My Hay, Wee McGregor, Mt Ardmore, Mt Dobson & Mt Maud. Near a ruined shepherd's hut several streams joined to form Edward Stream below Mt Edward.

I sidled round the north end of Mt Hay, following Mt Hay's moraine tail over hummocky country, past two tarns. Northwards, were grand views of Wee McGregor & Mt Ardmore. Eastwards, beyond the moraine hummocks & tarns, a grassy basin, watered by streams & surrounded by mountains. The grassy basin sloped gently down to a rocky stream bed which went round the end of Mt Dobson SW ridge, forming a rocky portal, with Mt Hay tail on the opposite bank.

Streams & farm fences crossed the grassy basin, as well as a farm track which went over Mt Hay tail from Mt Hay Station homestead to the south end of Mt Ardmore. On other walks I'd used the north end of the farm track to zig-zag up Mt Ardmore south ridge.

Eastwards, I followed another farm track on the stream bed through the rocky portal, Mt Maud & Mt Edward straight ahead. In the stream bed a Himalayan tahr ran away when it saw me.

I crossed another farm track which went from My Hay Station homestead & zig-zagged up Mt Dobson SW ridge. I'd used that farm track on another climb up the SW ridge. It took me 2 hours to reach the ruined shepherd's hut beside the stream, below a rocky hill with a cairn on top.

I climbed the rocky hill. Opposite was another hill with a cairn on top, the end of Mt Hay tail. The 2 hills formed another portal where a confluence of streams from surrounding mountains formed Edward stream, bending southwards, past willows, below Mt Edward.

From the hill top above the ruined shepherd's hut, I had upstream, valley views of Mt Dobson slopes, Tekapo Saddle & Mt Maud, their streams draining into Edward Stream.

On my wander from My Hay I'd aimed for 2 distant poplars below Mt Maud. From the hill top I saw the poplars were surrounded by willows on a stream bank. I resolved to return another day to climb Mt Maud second west ridge. The return trek to my car also took 2 hours. Total distance 10 kms.

Thurs 10.12.15. I parked my car about 8 kms along Lilybank Rd, beyond Mt Hay Station homestead, as I wanted to climb Mt Maud second west ridge, above Edward Stream, near the Old Woolshed. Map ref: BY17 099271. From the sheep yards by Lilybank Rd, I followed a farm fence past a willowy swamp & climbed the steep farm track, sidling past the south end of Mt Hay.

The farm track went through moraine, hummock country & over Mt Hay tail to the braided stream draining My Hay Station mountains: Mt Hay, Wee McGregor, Mt Ardmore, Mt Dobson, Tekapo Saddle, Mt Maud, Mt Edward. Crossing over the moraine tail all the mountains were seen, a magnificent panorama.

On the farm track, which eventually zig-zagged up Mt Dobson SW ridge, I crossed the braided stream & wandered down to the ruined shepherd's hut, where Edward Stream bent south below Mt Edward.

I crossed the hill behind the ruined shepherd's hut to poplars & willows by another Edward Stream tributary, a confluence of streams From Mt Dobson SW ridge, Tekapo Saddle, Mt Maud & Mt Edward NW ridge.

I crossed a stony, dry, riverbed, between Mt Edward NW ridge & Mt Maud first west ridge & followed a double farm fence, up valley, on the east bank of Edward Stream, below Mt Maud towards Tekapo Saddle. The double fence was old & new fences. The dilapidated, old fence had weathered, rimu, fence posts. The new fence had treated, wooden, fence posts. Edward Stream valley I wandered - Mt Dobson SW ridge west, Tekapo Saddle north, Mt Maud east.

At one point upstream, a low tussock ridge projecting from Mt Dobson SW ridge went east to Mt Maud first west ridge, forming a rocky canyon, Edward Stream flowing through the canyon. I avoided the canyon by following the fence over the stream at the Canyon's exit & following the fence over the low ridge to recross Edward Stream the other side, below Mt Maud second west ridge.

I climbed Mt Maud second west ridge through tussocks & Spaniard grass to the rocky top. I followed a goat track along the rocky, ridge top, crossed a saddle, climbed past 4 rocky outcrops & stopped for lunch at about 1300 m, viewing Mt Maud scree line below. I was slightly lower than Tekapo Saddle, 1387 m, seen across the valley head further north.

I had west views of the zig-zag, farm road going through tussock land up Mt Dobson SW ridge & over the top glimpsed Mt Ardmore's rocky summit ridge & beyond to Alpine ranges across lake Tekapo. South I looked down Edward Stream valley, Mt Maud & Mt Edward east & distant Lake Tekapo Village, Mt John & Old Man Range south west.

I texted Leah successfully from Mt Maud second west ridge, as I was unable to text her earlier near Mt Hay Station homestead, due to blocking hills. I didn't continue up the second west ridge to Mt Maud summit, 1797 m, as the tussock ridge became dangerously steep & rocky.

The walk / climb to my lunch stop up Mt Maud second west ridge took 3 hours. Conditions - nor'wester breeze, cloudy & cool. After midday, clouds disappeared, the afternoon a scorcher. I returned to my car in another 3 hours. Total distance 13 kms.

As Mt Hay Station is a working sheep station permission must be obtained from the owners for any walks or climbs. Fitness, map, all weather gear, food, water, emergency kit are essential.

Copyright Mark JS Esslemont.

Monday, November 30, 2015

Mt Richmond, Richmond Station, Mackenzie Country

Tues 24.11.15. I parked my car at the gravel pit, about 16 kms along Lilybank Rd, as I wanted to climb Mt Richmond south ridge to the scree line, about 1700 m. Map ref: BY17 104392. The gravel pit was already about 800 m above sea level overlooking Lake Tekapo.

Although Alpine ranges on the west side of Lake Tekapo were rainy, Lake Tekapo & Two Thumbs Range on the east side of Lake Tekapo had no rain. In the east it was an overcast, nor'wester day, cool & perfect for climbing.

On Richmond Station, it took me 2 hours to cross grassy, moraine country, with Boundary Stream on my right, & the north end of Mt Ardmore straight ahead, while I rose 200 vertical metres, over undulating, hummocky country & ancient moraine terraces to a double boundary fence at the last moraine terrace. En route I passed a tarn near a pine tree & crossed several small streams, tributaries of Boundary Stream.

In a valley between the last moraine terrace & the bottom of Mt Richmond, I crossed a DOC path, signified by marker poles with orange, plastic sleeves on top. By that stage I was about as high as Mt John, approx 1000 m.

My ascent up Mt Richmond south ridge to scree at 1700 m rose 700 vertical metres in 5 giant steps through tussock land, Spaniards & Alpine cushion plants. On top of the fourth giant step I sidled east, past a rocky outcrop, as I was nervous of lightning strikes due to low cloud over Lake Tekapo & Mt Richmond. My sidle took me up the fifth giant step to scree & patches of summer snow. My ascent up Mt Richmond south ridge took me 2.5 hours, up the 5 giant, tussocky steps.


S: I had clear views of Wee McGregor & Mt Hay.
SE: On my way up, glimpses of Boundary Stream & the gorge below Mt Ardmore.
E: North end of Mt Ardmore, The Knobbies & Stoneleigh Saddle. On Mt Richmond scree, I was almost as high as Stoneleigh Saddle in the east.  
SW: Motuariki Island, Lake Tekapo, Mt John, a rainbow over Old Mans Range, rain on Ben Ohau Range.
W: Rain on Braemar Dome, other end of the rainbow over Mt Joseph, rainy Cass River Valley, rainy Gammack Range & rainy Hall Range. I was higher than Mt Joseph & could see over the top of Mt Joseph to Joseph Ridge & rainy Hells Gates. Mt Cook Range was obscured by rain cloud. Glenmore Station & Godley Peaks Station by Cass River Delta.
NW: Rainy Godley River Valley & rainy Macaulay River Valley. Glimpses of Mt Erebus, Razorback, Mt Sibbald, Mt D'Archiac.
N: Mt Gerald Station, NE end of Lake Tekapo. Two Thumbs Range, clouds clearing in the east.
NE: On my way up, glimpses of Mt Gerald & Round Hill ski field, N end of Mt Richmond. Mt Richmond rocky summit ridge.

I didn't stay long on Mt Richmond scree, as it was drizzly & time to get off the mountain. My descent & return to my car on Lilybank Rd was quicker - 3 hours.

Walk Summary:

Lilybank Rd to bottom of Mt Richmond: 4.5 kms. 2 hours walking time. 200 vertical metres rise.
Ascent of Mt Richmond: 3 kms. 2,5 hours climb time. 700 vertical metres rise to 1700 m scree.
Descent to Lilybank Rd: 3 hours.
Total distance walked: 15 kms, Total walking / climbing time 7.5 hours. 900 vertical metres rise.

Fitness, all weather gear, food, water, map & emergency gear are essential. Permission for walking / climbing must be obtained from Richmond Station owners as it is a working sheep station.

Copyright Mark JS Esslemont.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Boundary Stream, Mt Hay Station, Mackenzie Country

Tues 17.11.15. About 12 kms along Lilybank Rd, I parked my car on Boundary Stream delta flats, near the road bridge, as I wanted to follow Boundary Stream towards the north end of Mt Ardmore on Mt Hay Station. Map ref: BY17 073368

I wandered across the delta flats to an ancient, moraine terrace, where a stony gully took me up to moraine humps & hollows, characteristic of Mt Hay's sheep paddocks. After half an hour I found a farm track which passed two tarns. There I saw two, rare, black stilts foraging in the water. DOC's Twizel breeding programme of the rare kaki, black stilt, annually released kaki on the west side of Lake Tekapo at Glenmore Station. It was good to see DOC's conservation plan succeeding, with kaki on the east side of Lake Tekapo.

The dusty, farm track crossed moraine terraces above Boundary Stream towards Mt Ardmore's northern gullies & ridges, hunting country. Boundary Stream bed was filled with unsightly, yellow gorze. After wandering across moraine country for 1.5 hours, I reached a moraine hill top below Mt Ardmore. A hut, Hays Retreat nestled between the moraine hill & Mt Ardmore's NW ridges.

Hays Retreat hut overlooked Boundary Stream gorge, which took a sharp turn northwards towards Mt Richmond. Some metres from the hut, a long drop had grand Alpine views. A deer skull hung on the outside of the long drop door.

On the hill top I scoffed my lunch, biltong, mandarin, muesli bar & fizzy drink, while admiring Alpine views around Lake Tekapo: S - moraine terraces, Wee McGregor, Mt Hay, Benmore Range. SW - Motuariki Island, Lake Tekapo Village, Mt John, Old Mans Range, Mary Range, Ben Ohau Range. W - Braemar Dome, Mt Stevenson, Fork River Valley, Glenmore Station, Mt Joseph, Cass River Valley & Cass River Delta, Godley Peaks Station, Gammack Range, Hall Range. Mt Cook Range was clouded over. NW - Mt Fletcher at Godley River head, Godley River Valley, flanked by Pikes Peak, Mt Erebus & Sibbald Range, Mt D'Archiac behind. Lilybank Station below Razorback. N - Richmond Station & moraine terraces, Two Thumbs Range, Mt Gerald Station & moraine terraces, Mt Gerald. E - Round Hill ski field, Mt Richmond.

The wander back to my car via moraine terraces & the two tarns took 1.5 hours. The walk was about 9 kms.

Copyright Mark JS Esslemont.

See rare black stilt, kaki (DOC).

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Mount Burgess, Burkes Pass, Mackenzie Country

Tues 10.11.15. Map ref: BY17 109194. A glorious, sunny day with few clouds. We often travelled SH 8 up Burkes Pass 709 m, as we lived at Fairlie & Leah worked at Lake Tekapo, Burkes Pass in between. Driving up Burkes Pass we first passed Albury Range on the left & Two Thumbs Range on the right, including Mt Maud's long ridge in front of Mt Edward. Above Burkes Pass, Mt Burgess formed a long summit ridge, then formed a saddle, transforming into Mt Maud's ridge going northwards to Tekapo Saddle & Mt Dobson, seen from Fairlie. Beyond Burkes Pass village we passed Rollesby Range on the left, Mt Burgess 1430 m on the right.

At the top of Burkes Pass, I parked my car by Burkes Memorial, a stone slab read:

               MICHAEL JOHN BURKE
                     RAINCLIFF STN
                           IN 1855.
                      -------- // -------


              THIS PASS IS 2209 FEET
                   ABOVE SEA LEVEL.

Burke was a conservationist before the modern word was invented, but his forest greenery was at odds with modern conservationists (tree huggers?) who desired Mackenzie Basin to retain its brownness. How did modern conservationist think high country farmers should manage their stations without tree, shelter belts against Alpine winds? Never mind wilding pines.

I wandered west down SH 8 about 200 m, climbed through a fence & ascended Mt Burgess up a tussock path, easily seen from SH 8. The tussock path followed a fence straight up a Mt Burgess ridge. Also seen from SH 8, a farm road from Sawdon Station followed another ridge up Mt Burgess, forming a summit road. Later I'd descend that road.

At about 900 vertical metres the tussock path petered out, so I continued following the fence though tussock grassland, up the ridge, to Mt Burgess summit road, about 1200 m. Along the way I saw several patches of alpine, yellow daisies, as well as red berried Pentachondra pumila. I climbed through tussock grassland, spiky spaniards & patches of prickly matagouri.

The higher I climbed the better my view of Mackenzie Country ranges: E - green Fairlie valley between Albury Range & The Brothers Range. SE - Albury Range. S - Rollesby Range & green Rollesby Valley; Dalgety Range with Grampian Range behind. Further S - Mt Nessing, Mt Nimrod & distant Otago Ranges. SSW - Dog Kennel Corner on Burkes Pass. Benmore Range, Mary Range. SW - Old Man Range, Ben Ohau Range. W - Mt Edward's southern ridges, a glimpse of Lake Tekapo village & Mt John at the S end of Lake Tekapo. Further W - snowy Mt Sefton, Mt Cook, Mt Tasman, Lendenfeld Peak, towering above Mt Stevenson, Braemar Dome, Mt Joseph & Gammack Range.

From Mt Burgess summit road I had good views of Sawdon Stream, going down to Sawdon Station, at the head of the valley formed by Mt Burgess, Mt Maud & Mt Edward. Opposite Sawdon Station, Holbrook Station was seen by SH 8. Green patches in the middle & along edges of brown Mackenzie Basin identified high country stations. Tekapo River & Tekapo Canal were green slashes across Mackenzie Basin going to Lake Pukaki.

I wandered along Mt Burgess summit road, rising another 200 m to Mt Burgess summit, identified by a big cairn & a rusty, metal pipe sticking out of the top. (Old trig beacon). Summit views continued: NW - Mt Edward's 2 southern ridges, farm roads going about half way up each ridge. SE ridge obscured Mt Edward's summit view. Below Mt Burgess summit, Mt Maud's long ridge curved NW to Mt Maud's summit ridge. N - tops of snowy Mt Dobson & Sherwood Range, including Mt Fox. NE - Green patches & yellow canola patches on Ashwick Flats & glinting Opuha Dam, Mt Michael, Mt Walker, Devils Peak, Blue Mountain, Mt Peel. It took me 3 hours to summit Mt Burgess from the top of Burkes Pass, climbing about 720 vertical metres.

I descended via the farm road, including another tussock ridge, forming the watershed for Bullock Creek below. The farm road descended the tussock ridge towards Sawdon Station, then rounded a rocky spur to pylons below, back to SH 8 & Burkes Memorial. Descent - 3 hours. The walk was about 12 kms.

The following week, two summer snowfalls covered Mt Burgess summit, Two Thumbs Range & Sherwood Range. All weather gear, water & food was essential for Alpine climbs. Permission from farmers also needed.

Copyright Mark JS Esslemont.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

A Fairlie Wander, Gateway to Mackenzie Country

Thurs 29.10.15. A circuit wander I often did around Fairlie, after Leah dropped me off by the Red Stag Restaurant / Rimuwhare, on Mt Cook Rd, SH 8, to Kimbell, en route to her catching Richies school bus to take her to work at Lake Tekapo School:

L into Alloway St: Great Alpine views of Dalgety Range & Mackenzie Pass, Albury Range & Burkes Pass, Mt Edward, Mt Maud, Tekapo Saddle, Mt Dobson & Sherwood Range, including Mt Fox. As the street was on Fairlie border, I saw sheep paddocks & an alpaca farm. I wandered past Fairlie Museum & housing.

R into Ayr St: Housing & Fairlie Medical Centre.

L into Sloan St: Housing. Mackenzie Kindergarten & High Country Carpentry. During our 2 years' stay in Mackenzie Country we'd seen those carpenters doing lots of building work.

L into Princes St: Housing.

R into Bank Street: Housing.

R into Regent St: Great view of Albury Range. Housing & Bell's housing development at the end. Early days we'd looked at some of Bell's houses as potential rentals, but found them old, relocated houses & pricy. Since then, we'd seen a new house built there & another relocated house tarted up. Mackenzie Country Motors was at the bottom of Regent St, where we had our cars serviced.

L into Martin St: Housing.

L into School Rd: Housing. Mackenzie Rugby Club, Squash Club, Bowls Club & swimming pool.

R into Gillingham St: Housing. Mackenzie College fields, Mackenzie A & P Society grounds.

L into Hamilton St: Housing. Fairlie Early Learners school. Past Gall St, where Leah taught on Fridays at St Josephs Primary. Old Age homes at the bottom of Hamilton St.

L into Main Rd, SH 8: Housing. Gladstone Hotel. Bronze statue of a WW1 soldier standing on Fairlie station platform, awaiting a train to take him to war. (Fairlie station & trains died years ago). The statue was erected in 2014 to commemorate WWI Anzacs. Mackenzie District Council bldgs. Fairlie Hotel & a bronze statue of sheep stealer, James Mackenzie & his sheepdog. Shops, cafes, businesses & public toilets. Tourists buses often parked there for tourists to relieve themselves, then move on to higher things.

R into Talbot Rd: Housing. Great views of Devils Peak & Brothers Range. Fairlie Golf Course. Sewage farm. Ravensdown fertilizers. Heslips Hatcheries. During summer all that organic stuff caused fly swarms.

The Fairlie wander took about 1 hour.

Copyright Mark JS Esslemont.

See Fairlie WWI Soldier statue

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Irishman Creek Station, Mackenzie Country

In 2015 Lake Tekapo School's roll increased. A new student came from Irishman Creek Station off SH8 between Lake Tekapo & Twizel. Before Lake Tekapo School started in 1940, local kids were schooled at Irishman Creek Station.

For some years owners didn't allow public visits to Irishman Creek. With a change of ownership & a new student at Lake Tekapo School, Irishman Creek's new owners were happy to have a Lake Tekapo School excursion at Irishman Creek for the first time in years.

Thursday 30.07.15. A perfect winter's day, frosty, windless, cloudless, with clear views of Mt Cook & the Alps for miles. Parents, staff & students gathered at Irishman Creek below the dam made by Bill Hamilton. Bill grew up at Ashwick near Fairlie then bought Irishman Creek in 1921. Age 13, Bill Hamilton was already generating electricity for his parents' Ashwick Station.

Bill Hamilton was world famous for engineering the first jet boat. He engineered other stuff too, like a mechanical scoop for excavating the dam; a road grader; an ice groomer for a skating rink; WW2 arms, like mortar casings, 303 rifle safety catches, Bren gun carriers... I thought Irishman Creek's Alpine remoteness was a perfect place for arms manufacture. If engineers couldn't hear intruders coming, summer heat or winter cold would get them.

The farmer conducted a tour of Bill Hamilton's Workshop where Bill's inventions were made. We saw a jet boat, various jet boat engines & a road grader displayed in the Workshop, which smelled of ancient grease. We saw various engineering tools, like drills, lathes, a forge & various hand tools. Many men did their engineering apprenticeships under Bill Hamilton's guidance.

Beside the Workshop the farmer conducted us through the noisy Powerhouse, with generator producing off grid electricity for the farm. After constructing the dam, Bill Hamilton piped water from the dam to the generator. Our school students enjoyed seeing the dam inlet pipe causing a small whirlpool in dam waters. On the dam wall, we wandered round the icy dam & saw Bill Hamilton's ice rink below the dam. Bill was a sportsman too, excelling at ice skating, jet boating around the world & overseas motor racing.

We had alfresco lunch by one of the farm houses, which was damaged in recent heavy snows. Freezing water pipes burst, causing flooding in the house, which mucked up the wall to wall carpets. Views from the homestead were magnificent, with Mt Cook in the NW & Mt John, Two Thumbs Range & Mt Edward in the NE.

To finish off the excursion, we returned to Lake Tekapo, where students had an hour's ice skating at the ice rink by Tekapo Springs.

Copyright Mark JS Esslemont.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Phantom Lagoon, Mt Hay Station, Mackenzie Country

Map ref: BY17 064329. Tuesday 28.07.15. About 10 kms along Lilybank Rd above Lake Tekapo shore, I parked my car below Mt Hay. I wanted to see Phantom Lagoon below snowy Mt Ardmore 2003 m. Last Tuesday I'd climbed Mt Ardmore's S ridge to about 1400 m & saw Phantom Lagoon in a ravine below, by stony hills flanking Mt Ardmore's S ridge.

Over moraine hills, I sidled past My Hay's N face & joined a farm track to a tarn by two stony, duck shooting hides below Wee McGregor. Climbing moraine hills, I sidled round the N end of Wee Mcgregor. I undulated over more moraine hills till I crossed Edward Stream below Mt Ardmore.

Following a fence, I climbed a steep, rocky slope up the ravine hills to a gap between the hills. Thereafter I descended a rocky defile to Phantom Lagoon. In the N, the ravine closed in the lagoon with steep rocky walls. Opposite the defile where I'd entered the ravine, a small waterfall tumbled from Mt Ardmore, forming a stream below Phantom Lagoon. From Lilybank Rd, It took me 2 hours to reach Phantom Lagoon.

I followed the stream S, rocky ravine walls closing in, to another small waterfall below Mt Ardmore. Ravine rocks were greywacke strata skewed about 45 degrees. In places skewed rock strata were almost vertical. A stream boulder had strata crushed at right angles, like a scrunched paper ball. After about half an hour's wander, the ravine stream disappeared underground & the ravine mouthed by Edward Stream again at the S end of Wee McGregor.

I recrossed Edward Stream & wandered back to Lilybank Rd over moraine hills between Wee McGregor & Mt Hay. My return walk took 2 hours. The clockwise, circular walk below Mt Ardmore taking in Phantom Lagoon & ravine was about 9 kms. Last week's low snows on moraine hills below Mt Hay, Wee McGregor & Mt Ardmore had thawed, leaving soft ground underfoot.

While I walked, Mt Ardmore clouded over & temperature dropped, so I put on my cold weather gear. By the time I reached my car it was raining. It wasn't a good day for mountain pics as low cloud hung over the Alps all day. Walking & climbing permission is needed from Mt Hay Station owners.

Thursday 13.08.15. Overcast, wintry Alpine views: After snowfalls, I did the Phantom Lagoon walk again in the opposite, anticlockwise direction. Below Mt Hay, around Wee McGregor & in the ravine, powder snow was 3-6 inches deep for 5 hours' walking. I also dodged mud patches below Mt Hay.

I saw 26 sheep sheltering on a north facing slope below Wee McGregor & saw 2 California quails feeding on a Mt Hay N slope. They ran uphill when they saw me, then glided away. Phantom Lagoon was frozen & ravine floor snow was 6 inches deep, so I needed snow gaiters to stop my ankles wetting & sunglasses to alleviate snow glare.

Tuesday 18.08.15. I did my usual trek around the N end of Mt Hay & the S end of Wee McGregor over moraine hummocks to Edward Stream on the E side of Wee McGregor. The day was stormy, a nor'wester blasting over Lake Tekapo. Cass River Valley in the W & Godley River Valley in the NW were blurred by rain. I kept a weather eye out to see if the storm would cross & move down Lake Tekapo.

As last week's snow had mostly thawed I walked in mud & patchy snow, which didn't bother rabbits hopping about. When 3 rabbits saw me on Mt Hay N slope they hopped uphill. That startled a nanny tahr which bolted to the summit.

I wanted to wander the high valley on the W side of Mt Ardmore's S ridge, above the ravine which ended in Phantom Lagoon in the N & Edward Steam in the S. After crossing blasting wind funnels between Mt Hay & Wee McGregor & between Wee McGregor & Mt Ardmore I crossed Edward Stream below Mt Ardmore. My longs, sunglasses & hooded windcheater stopped exposure.

I wandered up the farm track on Mt Ardmore's S ridge & followed it above the ravine till the track ended, about 900 m elevation, by a stream going down to a waterfall in the ravine. Above the road end Mt Ardmore's S ridge soared another 500 m odd, a rocky climb. As the nor'wester scudded rain clouds across the top of Mt Ardmore 2003 m, it was time to return to my car on Lilybank Rd. Just N of the waterfall, I descended a cliff break into the ravine.

The approx 8 km, return trek took me 4 hours. Over my last 7 months' wandering Mt Hay Station I'd endured all the elements - heat, rain, snow, mud, wind.

Copyright Mark JS Esslemont.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Mt Ardmore South Ridge, Mt Hay Station, Mackenzie Country

Map ref: BY17 074316. Tuesday 21.07.15. Two kms beyond Mt Hay Station homestead, I parked my car about 10 km along Lilybank Rd below Mt Hay. Since the big snow in June there'd had been light snows, feeding the Alpine watershed around Lake Tekapo. I needed an ice axe to stop me sliding on icy paths, as my macrocarpa walking stick was inadequate for self arresting on ice.

In the crisp, frosty morning, I crunched over frost heave & sidled round the north face of Mt Hay 1174 m, avoiding snow patches, trying to keep my canvas shoes dry. As I wanted to climb the farm track ascending the south ridge of Mt Ardmore 2003 m, I wandered hilly moraine country, keeping Wee McGregor 1146 m on my left, till I came to Edward Stream below Mt Ardmore. Within an hour I'd seen all the mountains found on Mt Hay Station: Mt Hay, Wee McGregor, Mt Ardmore, Mt Dobson's SW ridge, Mt Maud's W face, Mt Edward's W face.

Below Wee McGregor's E side, I crossed Edward Stream by a farm fence & began the road ascent on the dry SW side of Mt Ardmore. As soon as the road turned the corner to the E side of the S ridge, I struck snow again, which continued through snow tussock all the way to the summit. The snowy farm track zig-zagged up the S ridge with close up views of Mt Dobson's SW ridge on my right & another Edward Stream tributary below. I'd recently climbed Mt Dobson's SW ridge up to 1300 m, with bone-chilling, icy winds blasting from Mt Ardmore. The higher I climbed the better my views of snowy Mt Maud & Mt Edward in the E.

Looking W in the opposite direction across Lake Tekapo & Motuariki Island, I had views of snowy Mt John, Old Man Range, Ben Ohau Range, Braemar Dome, Mt Stevenson, Mt Joseph, Joseph Ridge, Hells Gates, Gammack Range behind & NW - Haszard Ridge, Mt Haszard, Mt Mistake, Pikes Peak, Mt Fletcher, Mt Erebus, Mt Sibbald & Mt D'Archiac. From S to N, I saw river valleys gathering Alpine waters into Lake Tekapo: Cass River Valley, Mistake River Valley, Godley River Valley, Macaulay River Valley. Mt Cook summit behind the lot was obscured by cloud.

Either side of Cass River near Lake Tekapo W shore, shelter belts showed Glenmore Station below Mt Joseph & Godley Peaks Station below Mt Haszard. On Lake Tekapo E shore I saw shelter belts at Richmond Station below Mt Richmond & in the NE, Mt Gerald Station below Mt Gerald & Two Thumbs Range. At the bottom of snowy Mt Ardmore I saw icy Phantom Lagoon hidden behind a row of low hills.

I followed rabbit spoor up the snowy road, till a fence by rocky outcrops at the end of the road, about 1400 m height. Thereafter Mt Ardmore plateaued a bit before the final steep, snowy ascent. From 1400 m, it was easy so see how ancient glaciers had carved huge trenches between mountains, forming lakes Tekapo, McGregor, Alexandrina & Pukaki & forming roche moutonees either side of Lake Tekapo - Mt John & Old Man Range off the SW shore & Mt Hay & Wee McGregor off the E shore.

From Lilybank Rd, it took me 3 hours to ascend Mt Ardmore S ridge up to 1400 m. It took me 2.5 hours return. Walking distance about 12 km. The afternoon thaw left my return trek muddy below Mt Hay. As Mt Hay Station is a working sheep station, permission is needed from owners for walks & climbs. Hill walking fitness, backpacked food, drinks, all weather gear are needed, as the mountains aren't a walk in the park.

Map ref: BY 17 074318. Tues 08.09.15. Over the last couple of weeks I'd avoided Mt Hay, as winter storms were foul. I couldn't even park below My Hay, due to deep snow, roadside.

I did the walk up Mt Ardmore again, crossed the fence at the end of the snowy, zig-zag road & clambered up a top rock to enjoy clear, Alpine views. E side of the rocks was icy snow which made my climb dangerous. (I had no ice axe, just my trusty macrocarpa walking stick to self arrest). W side of the rocks was a glissade of ice shattered, rock shards, which went on several hundred metres up the ridge. So I rejected the idea of ever climbing Mt Ardmore on the W side of those rocky outcrops. On a less icy day I'd attempt to go further up the E side of Mt Ardmore, covered in snow tussock. Snow tussock was a tough, helpful grip if I slipped. But fallen, dry tussock leaves were slippery on rock shards.

As the zig-zag road was icy, I descended straight down Mt Ardmore's south ridge line, sidling by rocky outcrops, to ravines below, like a Merino's wrinkled nose.

Map ref: BY17 086302. Tues 15.09.15. I explored an Edward Stream tributary in a valley flanked by the E side of Mt Ardmore & Mt Dobson's SW ridge: Below Mt Ardmore's south ridge, I wandered along a ravine from W to E & entered the tributary valley via a farm track.

Up valley, the farm track forded the tributary several times while the valley narrowed towards The Knobbies in the distance. At a farm fence the track petered out & the trek up valley became a tiresome rock hop towards the valley head. Rock hopping past prickly matagouri was futile, so I stopped & enjoyed snowy views on valley top sides & the valley head, still thickly covered in snow. Thereafter I returned down stream to my car on Lilybank Rd, via another Mt Ardmore ravine, then sidling past Wee McGregor & Mt Hay. The walk was about 12 kms & took 6 hours.

Fri 25.09.15. Ten days after my last Mt Ardmore walk, a party of 11 Monash University kayakers got into difficulties in a wind storm on Lake Tekapo near Motuariki Island, when a north'easter blew from Mt Ardmore & Mt Hay. Two kayakers died from hypothermia (drowning?) in Lake Tekapo, their bodies picked up by helicopter. Six kayakers were rescued by helicopter from Motuariki Island. Three kayakers were blown across Lake Tekapo & were rescued by helicopter from the W shore near Lake McGregor & Mt John.

I'd experienced potent wind funnels around Mt Ardmore, Wee McGregor & Mt Hay. Those wind funnels would increase E wind speeds over Lake Tekapo near Motuariki Island during a storm. The distance from Lake Tekapo S shore to Motuariki Island was 8 kms. A lot of kayaking.

Likewise a nor'wester howling from Mt Cook & Gammack Range across Lake Tekapo would have an equally devastating effect on kayak paddlers, blowing them to Lake Tekapo's E shore.

AquaNorts ran its business from the beach below the camp site, at the SW corner of Lake Tekapo, out of sight of Motuariki Island 8 kms away.

1. What were AquaNorts kayak owners thinking when they allowed 11 Monash University students on an unguided kayak paddle on Lake Tekapo, known for its icy waters & rapid weather changes?

AquaNorts would've known the wind was forecast to increase that fatal afternoon. In a storm, kayaks would fill with freezing water.

2. How did AquaNorts monitor kayak paddlers going around the corner of the bay beyond Mt John, out of sight of AquaNorts beach site?

Mon 19.10.15. With the farmer's permission, Leah & I viewed Mt Hay Station's sheep shearing in the shearing shed. Several sheepdogs, awaiting duties, were leashed against fencing by the shearing shed. Mt Hay sheep were still sheared using hand clippers by a team of male shearers from Timaru. Unlike electrical shearing, hand shearing left a thicker fleece to protect sheep in unseasonal cold weather. A women's team cleaned, sorted & graded sheared fleeces before baling.

Near the shearing shed we looked at a shearers' hut museum, giving the history of Mt Hay Station, including photos & details of owners, back to the 1850s, with domestic artefacts displayed.

Map ref: BY17 088313. Tues 20.10.15. After the spring thaw, I climbed the zig-zag road up Mt Ardmore south ridge again. Sans snow, beyond the road's end, for about 500 m I sidled past a series of rocky outcrops on top of the ridge, till I came to a saddle with E views of Mt Dobson, Mt Maud & Mt Edward, which had lost their snow. It took me 3.5 hrs to trek from Lilybank Rd to the saddle, which had a good view of my aiming point, a big rock, just below Mt Ardmore summit ridge. The big rock was clearly seen any day from distant Lake Tekapo village.

As it was a clear, spring day, I had sunny W views of snowless Wee McGregor, Mt Hay, Lake Tekapo, Motuariki Island, Mt John, Old Man Range, Mary Range. Further W, snowy Ben Ohau Range, Braemar Dome, Mt Stevenson, Mt Joseph, Mt Haszard, Mt Mistake, Pikes Peak, with Gammack Range & snowy Mt Cook, Mt Tasman & Mt Lendenfeld towering behind. In the S, I glimpsed Lake Benmore & Benmore Range. In the N, snowy Two Thumbs Range, including Mt Richmond, Mt Gerald, The Thumbs, Mt Chevalier, Mt Ross, Mt Ajax. NW, snowy Mt D'Archiac, Mt Sibbald, The Razorback & Mt Erebus flanking Godley River Valley going up to snowy Mt Fletcher.

Above Phantom Lagoon, I descended Mt Ardmore's steep SW flank avoiding slips, gullies & streams, all converging on a bigger stream, flowing to a waterfall into the rocky ravine below Phantom Lagoon. From the top of Mt Ardmore south ridge it took me 2.5 hours to return to my car on Lilybank Rd beside Mt Hay. The walk was about 13 kms.

In passing, I was amused by a recent The Timaru Herald's scaremongering report that a 25 m high tsunami could be caused by quake landslides from Mt John, Mt Mistake, Boundary Stream banks & Mt Hay. It would need massive quakes for Mt Hay to slide into Lake Tekapo, as Mt Hay, buttressed by lateral moraine hummocks, was 100s of metres from Lake Tekapo shore. Other reported mountains, like Mistake Peak, were closer to Lake Tekapo.

If seismologists opened their eyes they'd see Boundary Stream on the E shore was in a fault going under Lake Tekapo to the W shore, Cass River delta & Cass River Valley. If quakes struck, that E-W fault under Lake Tekapo could cause a tsunami.

Never mind slumping of Cass River delta & slumping of Boundary Stream delta maybe causing tsunamis during quakes. The article didn't even mention the vast Coal River delta at the NE end of Lake Tekapo formed by waters from Richmond Range & Two Thumbs Range.

During quakes, what would happen to Mt Richmond, bracketed by Boundary Stream Fault in the S, Washdyke Stream in the middle & Coal River Fault in the N, all crossing eroded, lateral moraine, hummocks & hollows beside Lake Tekapo's E shore?

There were millions of mountainous places in Mackenzie Country & around Lake Tekapo where landslides, slips & rifts could happen, not just due to seismic faults & folds, but due to erosion & gravity too. The time span over 10s of 1000s of years which seismologists gave for quakes maybe caused by known faults was laughable, as seismologists couldn't predict quakes accurately. Yet media used seismologists' ECan reports to scaremonger. When Christchurch's 2010-2013 quakes shook Canterbury, seismologists hadn't yet discovered faults causing those quakes, but soon afterwards jabbered about crustal faults causing Christchurch quakes.

Never mind Lake Tekapo village, with Tekapo Dam & Tekapo River running through the middle, built on a terminal moraine, a sponge riddled with tarns, subject to liquefaction during quakes.

Tues 27.10.15. Late snowfall around Lake Tekapo. Mt Hay Station's sheared sheep were warm.

Driving along Lilybank Rd to Boundary Stream, about 16 kms from Lake Tekapo village, anyone could see views of Lake Tekapo & surrounding Alps, including Mt Ardmore S Ridge, the pointy hill between Wee McGregor & Mt Hay, Mt Dobson SW Ridge, Mt Edward NW Ridge & Mt John, all of which I climbed in 2015.

Copyright Mark JS Esslemont. 

See Two tourists dead on Lake Tekapo in kayaking expedition (The Press / Stuff Co).

See Lake Tekapo landslide could cause 25m tsunami (The Timaru Herald / Stuff Co).

See AquaNorts boss sentenced (The Press / Stuff Co).

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Snowy Wee McGregor, Snowy Mt Hay Station, Snowy Mackenzie Country

Thursday, Friday, 18-19 June was big snow time in Mackenzie Country. In Fairlie during a 35 cm snowfall we had a power cut, then we glamped in our lounge for 10 days, while our log burner kept us warm & our hot water going. Although we had kitchen cold water, most of our cold water pipes & the toilet cistern pipe froze, so I was toilet cistern water carrier for 10 days. Due to frozen cold water pipes we couldn't bath for 5 days. We conserved our kitchen cold water for drinking & cooking.

Our laundry outlet pipe froze & I replaced a cracked elbow joint to stop the freeze. So we couldn't use our washing machine for several days. We kept our electric fin heaters going several days, 24/7, in our bathroom & passage to stop water pipes bursting. Other locals were in the same predicament. Fairlie temperature range for the 10 days - minus 9 C to minus 13 C, the latter recorded at Mackenzie College.

On the Friday after the snowfall I shovelled snow to make paths round the house & to get our car out of the garage & driveway. A neighbour helped me shovel our driveway, as he had a decent snow shovel. I just used our heavy, old garden shovel. Thereafter the snow turned to ice due to calm weather for 9 days. Only 10 days after the snowfall did the wind come up & thaw the snow. Twizel, Pukaki & Omarama boasted minus 20 C to minus 21 C temperatures on National News. Mt Gerald Station at the end of Lilybank Rd & Lake Tekapo recorded minus 21 C too.

As Mackenzie District Council didn't properly maintain Lilybank Rd beyond Round Hill ski field turnoff, the road to Mt Gerald Station was horrendous. Leah taught farm kids who trekked that dirt road daily.

On the Thursday morning of the big snow, a warm nor'wester morning, when Leah tried bussing to Lake Tekapo School, the bus got up Burkes Pass, but the bus driver turned back near Holbrook Station due to Mt Edward winds blasting the bus all over the road. Leah didn't bus to work the following, snowy week, as the school closed for a while & when it reopened Leah had flu, so she stayed in Fairlie awaiting the thaw. She kept local finches, white eyes, blackbirds, thrushes & Australian magpies alive by feeding them daily in the snow.

Map ref: BY17 057319. Tuesday 30.06.15. A beautiful, snowy, nor'wester day, perfect for climbing Wee McGregor 1146 m, Mt Hay Station. After dropping Leah off at Lake Tekapo School, I drove along Lilybank Rd for about 10 km & parked my car about half way along Mt Hay above Lake Tekapo.

I sidled around the north end of Mt Hay over lumpy, moraine country, criss-crossing sheep paths & a farm road. I avoided the road with 10 cm deep snow - tiring. To stop my feet getting wet, I dodged snow patches & walked as much as possible on muddy, stony ground.

After an hour over low moraine hills, I reached the bottom of Wee McGregor, by a frozen tarn. Beyond the tarn rose a small conical hill below Wee McGregor. A week before the big snow, described above, I'd climbed the small conical hill thinking it was Wee McGregor, a steep climb up to about 800 m. A mistake, as I thought Wee McGregor looming behind was the southern end of Mt Ardmore. So much for interpreting my Topo 50 map!

Avoiding snow, I skirted the conical hill & began the steep ascent of Wee McGregor, sheep back shaped, with summit ridge lowering from N to S.  It took me an hour to summit, up the side of a long, steep terrace, which eased as I neared the top. I added stones to the 2 summit cairns. I wished I had a captive botanist with me to explain all the Alpine cushion plants I saw. I recognised some, but most were a mystery, even after looking at plant books in Fairlie Community Library. Small Alpine plants I saw on the ground were difficult to identify, even with published pics.

It was windy on top as the nor'wester blasted from the direction of Godley River Valley beyond the N end of Lake Tekapo. I put on my wind cheater & snapped 360 degree snowscapes:

SE: Snowy Mt Dobson SW ridge I'd recently climbed; snowy Mt Maud; snowy Mt Edward.

S: Snowy moraine country with icy tarns & braided Edward Stream below Mt Edward, flowing south through Sawdon Station. Snowy Mt Benmore & snowy Otago Alps, deep south.

SW: A glimpse of Lake Tekapo town; snowy Mt Hay (obscuring snowy Mt John & snowy Old Man Range); across Lake Tekapo, snowy Ben Ohau Range.

W: Across Lake Tekapo, snowy Fork River Valley; snowy Braemar Dome; snowy Mt Stevenson; snowy Mt Joseph; snowy Joseph Ridge; snowy Hells Gates; snowy Glenmore Station; snowy Godley Peaks Station; Cass River Valley & delta; snowy Gammack Range behind; snowy Mt Cook summit behind the lot.

NW: N of Cass River Valley - Snowy Mistake River Valley; snowy Haszard Ridge; snowy Mt Haszard; snowy Mt Mistake; snowy Pikes Peak; Godley River Valley at the head of Lake Tekapo; snowy Mt Fletcher at the head of Godley River Valley.

NW: N of Godley River Valley - Snowy Mt Erebus; snowy Mt Sibbalt; snowy Mt D'Archaic, snowy Mt Gerald above snowy Mt Gerald Station.

N: Snowy Two Thumbs Range, including snowy Mt Chevalier, snowy Mt Ross, snowy Mt Ajax, snowy The Thumbs; snowy Richmond Station & Round Hill ski field below snowy Mt Richmond; snowy Boundary Stream Valley; snowy Mt Ardmore looming above Wee McGregor.

Scrutinizing snowy moraine country below snowy Wee McGregor I tried to find the Phantom Lagoon below snowy Mt Ardmore. All I saw were stony bluffs by an icy tributary of Edward Stream.

After descending Wee McGregor, avoiding snow patches if possible, on a Mt Hay stony slope I surprised 3 Himalayan tahr. The maned male bolted round the W flank of Mt Hay. The two females bolted straight up rocky Mt Hay & summited within minutes. The sheep they'd accompanied trotted leisurely downhill.

As Mt Hay Station is a working farm, trampers/ climbers must get permission from the owners for walks & climbs. Food, water, weather proof gear must be backpacked for the mountains' bite.

Copyright Mark JS Esslemont.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Mt Dobson SW Ridge, Mt Hay Station, Mackenzie Country

May 2015. Map ref: BY17 089295. The easiest way to climb Mt Dobson's SW ridge was from Mt Hay Station, rising from the east shore of Lake Tekapo. Otherwise it was a long trek from Fairlie along SH8, up to Mt Dobson ski field, then westwards across Mt Dobson summit 2095 m to the SW ridge. Permission must be obtained from Mt Hay Station owners for any climbs or walks on Mt Hay Station, a working sheep station.

From Lake Tekapo town, about 8 kms along Lilybank Rd, I parked my car at Mt Hay Station homestead. I wandered past farm sheds & more housing, then up a steep farm track to the flats, through sheep paddocks to the lower southern slopes of Mt Hay 1174 m. Mt Hay lower slopes, moraine country, must be crossed before reaching Mt Dobson SW ridge across Edward Stream watershed below Mt Hay, Wee McGregor 1146 m, Mt Ardmore 2003 m, Mt Dobson, Mt Maud 1797 m & Mt Edward 1916 m.

I'd wandered into the watershed, which locals call the Old Wool Shed, on another rainy walk up Edward Stream below Mt Edward. This time I headed straight up moraine, hummock country above farm flats till I found a farm track which took me down to Edward Stream watershed. Since my last wander on Mt Hay Station, first winter snows had fallen leaving a couple of cms of patchy snow wherever I wandered. It took me about 1 hour to reach Edward Stream from the homestead.

I crossed Edward Stream & followed a snowy, farm road zig-zagging up Mt Dobson SW ridge to the end of the road. It took me 2 hours hard slog up the snowy road before I reached the end at about 1300 m. The road crossed terraces after Edward Stream then went up a valley with Mt Dobson SW ridge on the left & Mt Edward, then Mt Maud on the right, with Tekapo Saddle 1387 m joining Mt Maud & Mt Dobson at the head of the valley. Several tributary streams fed Edward Stream which braided southwards past Mt Edward through Mt Hay Station & Sawdon Station towards SH 8.

The farm road was easy at first, but after a farm gate it became steeper, as it passed 3 rocky outcrops above. The fourth rocky outcrop was the end of the road on top of the SW ridge, with the SW ridge continuing another 800 vertical metres to Mt Dobson summit. I'd followed sheep dog tracks & sheep tracks on the snowy road, as the autumn muster was completed days ago.

The end of the road was worth the climb for the views: Snowy Mt Edward, Mt Maud, Tekapo Saddle, eastwards behind me. Snowy Mt Dobson above & The Knobbies 2050 m & Mt Ardmore forming a steep valley westwards & below. I didn't stay long as an icy wind blew up the snowy, western valley, numbing my mittened fingers. Across the icy valley I saw another zig-zag, farm road going up Mt Ardmore's southern ridge, which I'd climb another day.

Walk time from / to Mt Hay homestead: 6 hours. Distance 14 km, according to my Topo 50 map. Hill walking fitness, food, water, all weather gear was needed, as the weather changed quickly in the mountains.

Seen from the top of Mt Hay or the top of Wee McGregor, Mt Dobson SW ridge was a rocky ridge with a north facing, warm aspect. Mt Dobson SW ridge stuck out southwards way beyond the southern end of Mt Ardmore. Mt Maud in the E behind loomed above Mt Dobson SW Ridge.

Copyright Mark JS Esslemont.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Mt Edward, Mt Hay Station, Mackenzie Country

Map ref: BY17 075245. From our Fairlie rental, every day I see the east summit of Mt Edward, 1916 m. During winters Mt Edward is snow capped. During summers Mt Edward is dry and harsh, upper ridges covered in snow tussock, with dangerous slips & scree slopes going up to the summit. Likewise northwards, Mt Maud 1797 m, Tekapo Saddle 1387 m, Mt Dobson 2064 m, Mt Ardmore 2003 m.

Most school days Leah busses to & from Lake Tekapo School where she teaches. Once a week I drive Leah to and from school. As Leah teaches with one of the owners of Mt Hay Station, situated below western slopes of Mt Edward, Mt Maud, Tekapo Saddle, Mt Dobson & Mt Ardmore, I'm privileged to wander Mt Hay Station, weather permitting.

Mt Hay is on the non tourist, east side of Lake Tekapo. Tourism brings in tourist dollars for NZ, but also brings tourist rubbish & a load of crap. Bus loads of tourists stop at Fairlie & Lake Tekapo for about 15 minutes for queues of tourists to crap at public loos, paid for by rate payers & taxpayers, with little local benefit except for shop keepers & cafes. Whenever I climb Mt John, 1031 m, west side of Lake Tekapo I'm disgusted by tourist rubbish discarded on the path up Mt John - fruit peels, paper tissues, plastic packets & bottles. Why don't tourists carry their junk out?

Over the last few months I did several walks at Mt Hay Station from Lake Tekapo Regional Park. Time wise I'm limited to about 6 hours walking, after dropping Leah off at school before 9 am & picking her up at 3.30 pm. I park my car below plantation pines & climb over a locked gate at the top of Ebenezer Ln, at the south border fence between Mt Hay Station & the Regional Park.

At the top of the Regional Park, Sawdon Station borders the eastern fence of the Regional Park. Most of Mt Edward's steep SW ridge lours above Edward Stream braiding though Sawdon Station towards SH8. Both sides of Edward Stream have swamps & broken cliffs which must be crossed before any Mt Edward slopes can be climbed. Stream is a misnomer, as it is braided & several hundred metres wide in places. Whenever I crossed Edward Stream the braided river was ankle deep.

Mt Edward Stream below Mt Edward, is about 1.5 hours walk from the Regional Park over ancient, glacial moraine, broken country - stony hummocks & hollows. On the stations there're farm tracks going to Edward Stream. I usually walked the farm track from the Regional Park, winding north eastwards, past low hills, tarns, 3 farm gates & fencing, till I reached Edward Stream below Mt Edward's 3 west facing ridges. The farm tracks made it easier to avoid riverside cliffs.

I backpacked all-weather gear (jersey, parka, gloves, beanie) with chocolate bars, biltong, mandarins & 3 litres of fizzy drink for water / sugar content. During hot weather, in six hours I drank about 2 litres, during colder weather, I drank about 1 litre. I also backpacked a poncho, space blanket & plastic tarp for safety against exposure. Tarp rope, matches, whistle, sun glasses too, just in case.

Permission is required from station owners before walking, as farmers don't like their sheep being disturbed. There's also the dangers of mixing walkers with legitimate hunters, or vermin poisoners, or poachers. A pack of farm dogs - some are friendly, some aren't, so beware!

Although easily seen in the distance from Lake Tekapo town or the top of Mt John, Mt Edward is remote. On all my walks I saw no one, just sheep, rabbits & the occasional wallaby & Himalayan tahr on high slopes. For safety, I couldn't afford a locator beacon, but told Leah where I was going according to my Topo 50 map. Cell texting was patchy, as I could send & receive messages on high slopes, but couldn't send or receive texts in river valleys, or near blocking hills.

I was careful where I stepped, as Mackenzie Country is riddled with millions of rabbit holes. Mt Edward's steep, rocky slopes are dangerous due to loose stones from ice shattered greywacke. In winter, I disliked slippery ice & avoided deep snow walks. Crunchy snow, 1 - 2 cm deep, no problem. My strong walking stick was needed as support on steep slopes & crossing streams & bogs. I avoided all slips & there are many on Mt Edward. Hill walking fitness is essential, or the mountain bites your ass.

The higher I climbed Mt Edward western slopes the better Alpine views. Mt Edward Stream was about 700 m elevation, my starting point up Mt Edward. I tried to be about 1300 m - 1400 m height by midday, then returned, as it was about 3 hours walk back to my car. Thus I climbed about 600 - 700 vertical metres before midday. A couple of times I climbed till 12.30 pm, if I thought it was safe to return in less than 3 hours, fast walking on the "flats" closer to Mt Hay homestead. During brief stops I caught my breath, drank & took pics either by cell phone or camera. I scoffed my food while walking as too many stops wasted climbing time. Views depended on cloud cover, wind, or rain. Views from Mt Edward western slopes:

South down Edward Stream towards SH 8: Sawdon Hill west side of Mt Edward Stream. The tapering length of of Mt Edward SW ridge & beyond across Mackenzie Basin past Rollesby Range, Grampian Range, Greys Hills to Haldon Arm Station, Kirkliston Range, Waitaki Basin & Otago Alps.

South west across Mt Hay Station & Lake Tekapo to Lake Tekapo town & beyond across Mackenzie Basin to Old Man Range, Mary Range & Ben Ohau range & its mighty peaks: Mt Mackenzie, Razorback, Kaimakamaka, Dun Fiunary, Glentanner & more to Mt Sealy. Mt Sefton was obscured by Braemar Dome & Mt Stevenson.

Westwards across Motuariki Island on Lake Tekapo, Mt Joseph loomed above Glenmore Station on the west side of Lake Tekapo between Fork River in the south & Cass River northwards. Behind Mt Joseph was Mt Joseph Ridge then Hells Gates. Gammack Range towered behind. Northwards across Cass River was Godley Peaks Station, Mt Haszard Ridge & Mt Haszard, then Mt Mistake, which dropped steeply into NW Lake Tekapo. On a cloudless day, snowy Mt Cook & Mt Tasman summits were seen behind Gammack Range.

NW beyond Godley River feeding Lake Tekapo: Mt Fletcher at Godley Valley head, Mt Erebus, Razor Back, Sibbald Range. NE south of Macaulay River feeding Lake Tekapo: Mt Gerald. NE north of Macaulay River: D'Archaic peak, Mt Chevalier, Mt Ajax, Mt Ross, Electra Peak, The Thumbs, Mt Toby, Captains Peak, Beuzenberg, Stag Saddle, Mt Hope, Braun-Ewart Peak... all part of Two Thumbs Range sweeping SE back to Mt Hay.

SE back to Mt Hay: Mt Richmond & Round Hill Ski Field, Mt Ardmore, The Knobbies, Mt Dobson. Mt Maud. Mt Edward, with Mt Hay & Wee McGregor on the east side of Lake Tekapo below Mt Ardmore.

I used Sawdon Hill 1026 m, Mt John 1031 m, Mt Hay 1174 m & Wee McGregor 1146 m, as my climbing markers. Above that lot, I was with the gods. Felt them on my breath too, as the air thinned as it got steeper towards Mt Edward summit bluffs. Those rocky, snowy heights I left for another day.

Walking notes: South to north, Mt Edward west side:

1. Map ref: BY17 038231. December 2014. Sawdon Hill 1026 m, on the west side of Edward Stream & Mt Edward: Sawdon Hill can be seen from SH8 on the way to Lake Tekapo, after driving over Edward Stream bridge. A pine forest is on the left side of SH8 & wilding pines on Sawdon side of the road were axed, enabling better views of Sawdon Hill & Mt Edward.

Sawdon Hill is terraced, rising to an undulating summit ridge overlooking Edward Stream. When looking at Mt Edward from Lake Tekapo town one hardly notices Sawdon Hill, as Mt Edward's SW ridge forms a vast wall behind it.

From the Regional Park I wandered Edward Stream farm track on Mt Hay Station, till the first farm gate by tarns, then near the second farm gate I forked right to Mt Hay / Sawdon border fence. I crossed the fence into Sawdon, climbed up to a Sawdon farm road which took me up to the terrace. I wandered across lush terrace grassland, then headed straight up Sawdon Hill to the summit. It was a hot summer's morn, so I took off my shirt on top & admired the views. I added a stone to the small cairn on top.

From Sawdon Hill top I saw a green lagoon below, at a bend in Edward Stream. The lagoon was formed by riverside cliff erosion. Valley tarn waters fed it too.

I wandered down the summit ridge then returned to the Regional Park eastern fence, via grassland on the steep terrace & across dry, hummock country below.

2. Map ref: BY17 047228. March 2015. 1300 m saddle on SW ridge of Mt Edward, which sloped south to SH8: I left Mt Hay river track after the first farm gate & tarns & followed willows by tarns down a shallow, moraine valley to the lagoon below Sawdon Hill. By March, summer drought had dried out the lagoon, so I had the option of walking a farm track over a low hill to Edward Stream, or crossing the dry lagoon to reach Edward Stream. I did the latter, looped round eroded cliffs, crossed Edward Stream & negotiated the steep rocky, river bank below a Mt Edward slope on the SW ridge.

Sawdon Station side, one slope south of the boundary fence, I climbed the steep, stony slope, avoiding slips both sides of the slope. Once I was above the slips I sidled past a patch of matagouri till I reached the saddle top by border fences in snow tussock. The 600 vertical metre ascent took about 1.5 hours. I looked over the saddle to Dead Mans Creek below & beyond to the SE ridge of Mt Edward, a higher ridge, which sloped south towards SH8 too.

Mt Edward summit northwards from the saddle along the ridge was about 600 m higher, a long way to go. I thought the easiest way to summit Mt Edward was to climb one of the two southern ridges from Sawdon homestead, with farmer's permission.

Running out of time, I quickly descended the next west facing slope by the steep border fence to Edward Stream, Mt Hay Station side. My reasoning: If fencers went that way, so could I. Descent time: 1 hour. I returned to the Regional Park, crossing Edward Stream again & via the farm road over the low riverside hill.

I saw a horizontal fault line on Mt Edward W slopes at about 1200 m elevation, crossing slope after slope, signified by water seepage & luxuriant matagouri or snow tussock in a horizontal line, hundreds of metres along the west side of Mt Edward. Most of the slips on Mt Edward W side started below that horizontal fault line. God help anyone on Mt Edward should a quake strike, as above that fault line were masses of greywacke bluffs, angled skywards. The horizontal fault line is easily seen from a far distance, like Mt John top, rather than close up, while slogging up Mt Edward.

3. Map ref: BY17 051246. March 2015. Up a triangular shaped, west facing slope by a slip on Mt Edward's SW ridge, up to 1300 m: I left the farm track near the second farm gate, wandered across low moraine hills & found another farm track down to Edward Stream. I crossed Edward Stream by a willowy swamp & found Edward Stream disappeared underground near an island willow.

After following sheep tracks up the cliff on the other side of Edward Stream, I followed the slip crest up the steep triangular face of the slope. Like all Mt Edward lower slopes, the slope I climbed was a series of giant steps over eroded, shattered greywacke. I climbed to a huge rock & admired the view on top. From distant Lake Tekapo town or the top of Mt John, the rock can be seen as a black dot high on the west side of Mt Edward's SW ridge. One of many greywacke outcrops on Mt Edward slopes. After snows, the rocky outcrops above 1200 m are easily seen.

4. Map ref: BY17  067243. February, March 2015. West facing ridge of Mt Edward up to 1300 m: Mt Edward has 3 west facing ridges which form two steep valleys & a couple of tributary streams for Edward Stream. I made two attempts on the southern most ridge.

During February I wandered the full length of the farm track from the Regional Park till the road petered out at Edward Stream below Mt Edward. I wandered northwards along Edward Stream a bit, past willows, till I came to a gully where a tributary creek trickled into Edward Stream. There I had the option of following the creek through prickly matagouri into the valley, or following a farm track between the creek & a long slip carved by the tributary streams on the south side of the valley. Above the slip a plateau went up to two rocky outcrops higher up the ridge.

I followed the steep road over some of the slip. It was a mistake that hot February morning, as the valley boxed me in with a waterfall at the end of the slip. Near the waterfall, I climbed the end of the slip to the plateau, a dangerous manoeuvre, then to the first rocky outcrop, about 900 m elevation. By then I'd had enough February heat & descended to my car via the plateau, Edward Stream & the farm track.

In cooler March I returned & climbed the easier plateau above Edward Stream, through snow tussock on the plateau to the first rocky outcrop, then to the second rocky outcrop about 1000 m elevation. I continued climbing over shattered greywacke above a high, hidden slip, till I came through snow tussock to broken fencing of an old sheep corral, 1300 m elevation.

I looked at two sheep staring at me from rocks above & a Himalayan tahr & her kid which wandered by on the same rock. The nanny tahr ignored me. At that point I looked at the other 2 west facing ridges & their steep slopes ascending rocky outcrops & scree to Mt Edward summit. I turned back, as the ridge I was on became steeper & rockier & I was running out of time.

5. Map ref: BY17 063258. March 2015. Middle west facing ridge of Mt Edward up to 1300 m: As before I crossed Edward Stream & wandered up the matagouri gully, criss-crossing the tributary stream to the middle west facing ridge ascending to Mt Edward summit. A small triangular slip at the confluence of two tributary streams was bordered by matagouri north side & a dangerous, stony slip south side. I scrambled up the north side to begin my climb up the middle ridge. While wandering the top edge of the slip I saw a wallaby bounding up the tributary stream between the middle ridge & the north ridge.

The middle ridge took me up several steep, ice shattered, stony steps till I reached snow tussock overlooking a scree slope between the north & middle ridge & the high slip between the middle & southern most ridge. I stopped briefly for lunch & pics at a small, rocky plateau, about 1300 m. From that point I was above the waterfall beside the big slip & the two rocky outcrops I'd sidled past on another climb up the southern most ridge. (See 4 above). I turned back at that plateau, as greywacke outcrops became more numerous & steeper towards Mt Edward Summit.

On my descent to Edward Stream the wallaby bounded down the northern ridge as if expecting my return. Hunters would be hard pressed shooting that wallaby living in an inaccessible, high place.

6. Map ref: BY17 063269. May 2015. Mt Edward northern ridge, up to 1400 m, the last / first of the west facing ridges, a barrier between Mt Edward & Mt Maud. From SH8, the northern ridge is easily seen, sticking out westwards at a great right angle to the rest of Mt Edward:

I crossed Edward Stream again by a west bank cliff. The northern ridge fell a couple of hundred metres down to Edward Stream, as a massive triangular slip, about 1 km long at the hypotenuse by Edward Stream. From the gully tributary creek, I climbed the side of the northern ridge, which ascended a series of steps over ice shattered greywacke & higher up through snow tussock. Below 1400 m elevation, I sidled across a small slip until I reached old fencing at a ridge top plateau, 1400 m.

I didn't continue along the ridge plateau as it started the steep climb past greywacke bluffs to Mt Edward summit. It was 12.30 pm, time to turn back. I had lunch & took pics of magnificent Alpine views. Despite fair weather, the west wind blowing from the Alps soon chilled me.

A week later first winter snows, down to 800 m, covered all the Mt Edward climbs I did over the last few months. A month later, 18 June, a heavy snowfall covered Mt Edward & nearby mountains from summits to Lake Tekapo shores.

7. May 2015. Edward Stream below Mt Edward northern ridge: After my climbs on Mt Edward ridges, I explored Edward Stream below Mt Edward northern ridge. As usual I walked the 1.5 hour farm track to Edward Stream below Mt Edward. I wandered northwards in the stony river bed, avoiding both sides of Edward Stream, as on the west side there were broken cliffs & on the east side loomed the sheer face of the end of Mt Edward northern ridge.

From the south, low cloud scudded up Edward Stream valley below Mt Edward. Braided Edward Stream was ankle deep in places, so I zig-zagged over bogs & islands for about 1 km till I reached the end of Mt Edward at what Mt Hay Station owners call the Old Wool Shed. I didn't see an old wool shed, but I saw a vast watershed where streams drained ridges & valleys from Mt Edward, Mt Maud, Tekapo Saddle, Mt Dobson, The Knobbies, Mt Ardmore, Mt Hay & Wee McGregor.

In the Old Wool Shed area it began to rain, not a good day for mountain views. I fished out my plastic poncho from my backpack. My Topo 50 map showed 3 Edward Stream tributaries: 1. An NE tributary drained waters from Mt Edward, Mt Maud, Tekapo Saddle & Mt Dobson. 2. A NW tributary drained waters from Mt Dobson, The Knobbies & Mt Ardmore. 3. A W tributary drained waters from Mt Hay, Wee McGregor, Mt Ardmore & associated lateral moraine hummocks. The Old Wool Shed area was a vast bog, matrixed by stony islands & streams which I crossed, then slogged westwards over Mt Hay moraine country.

Out of the bog, a farm track took me over moraine hills past Mt Hay homestead, past Roys Lagoon, back to the Regional Park. It rained 2 hours solid, my poncho flapping all the way.

Copyright Mark JS Esslemont.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Disastrous CERA, No Unauthorised Access, No Dumping

Although we'd lived in Mackenzie Country, Lake Tekapo & Fairlie for over a year, we regularly returned to Christchurch for Leah's professional matters & for us to visit Jake & Luke. I kept up with post quake Christchurch by following the news & visiting Christchurch suburbs & the CBD.

Disastrous CERA wasn't saying what the Crown would do with approx 8 000 red zone, residential properties, mostly beside Avon River, which CERA had acquired from citizens under quake duress.

Saturday 28.03.15. While Leah attended a function at Seabrook Mackenzie Centre, London St, celebrating the first 10 years of Jean Seabrook Memorial School there (Leah had taught there the first 9 years) I took a closer look at the residential red zone along Avon River where I'd taken 1 000s of pics during quake times. I drove the following red zone roads & environs, both sides of Avon River: Avonside Dr, Avon Loop where Jake had lived pre quakes; River Rd; Dallington Tce; Glenarm Tce, Locksley Ave, Kingsford St, Queensbury St, Avonside Dr...

Most of the houses & commercial bldgs in the red zone had been demolished by CERA. A few houses still to go. They were boarded, fence cordoned & danger taped, some with asbestos warning tapes.

Tress & shrubs were left by CERA, but most of the red zone was overgrown. Some areas were mown & some areas fenced off, a parkland effect, but most of the residential red zone along Avon River was unfenced. White & black signs attached to red zone fencing read:




Like Pages Rd Bridge, Swanns Rd Bridge was just patch repaired & neglected by CERA / SCIRT, although good citizens of Christchurch were expected by CERA / SCIRT to still use those bridges. A disgrace more than 4 years post 22.02.11 quake. SCIRT had repaired abutments at Stanmore Rd Bridge & Avondale Rd Bridge. There were detours along Dallington Tce & Avonside Dr, as Gayhurst Rd Bridge was being repaired by SCIRT.

All red zone roads were in appalling disrepair - huge pot holes, loose shingle & flooding in places where high tide, Avon River leaked under stop banks.

CERA had evolved new orange & black signs to stop people entering some red zone areas. The signs stood on some red zone roads with obstructing fencing across roads. The signs read:



For information
0800 ring CERA


At Horseshoe Lake, I ignored a couple of those signs on Kingsford St, as I wanted to see the red zone at the end of the road, where I'd snapped pics post 13.06.11 quake. On the way I passed 2 NZDF jeeps & a Unimog parked on a side road.

At the end of Kingsford St, I was confronted by two camouflage-uniformed soldiers toting automatic rifles. I signalled a turnabout sign & drove off. Why was CERA still allowing war games in the red zone? (A couple of years ago cops had played cops & robbers at Horseshoe Lake red zone too). Deputy mayor Buck was in denial that Christchurch didn't look like a war zone.

By New Brighton Rd / Locksley Ave junction, a blue & white CERA sign by a red zone fence read:

                        CROWN OWNED LAND
                           CLEARANCE IN THE
                      RESIDENTIAL RED ZONE

Where possible we will keep significant planting. We are
aiming to create a safe and attractive area that is easy
to maintain until decisions are made about future land use.


Sunday 29.03.15. When we picked up firewood at Luke's salvage yard, Dyers Rd, a broken-down car was parked under gum trees by Bromley oxidation ponds. A black Staffordshire terrier was locked in the car. A note on the car window read:


Luke told us the car had been there a couple of days & an Irishman slept in it. He was a construction worker & had fallen on hard times during Christchurch rebuild. So much for CERA's rebuild. An eloquent man, Leah gave him food.

Before we left for Fairlie, Luke showed us rimu flooring & wooden arched windows salvaged from Isaac Theatre Royal, Gloucester St, after the theatre's makeover.

August 2015. CERA minister Brownlee was in denial again, this time about shoddy repairs to quake trashed house foundations. The Ministry of Business Innovation & Employment, MBIE had sampled some EQC / Fletchers repaired house foundations & found repairs were inadequate. The fact that EQC / Fletchers had overseen those house foundation repairs wasn't acknowledged by Brownlee.

Brownlee denied shoddy work done by EQC / Fletchers on his watch. Brownlee blamed "Cowboy builders" contracted by EQC / Fletchers & said they'd have to repair their bad house foundation repairs. Never mind shoddy repairs done above house foundations. Slack builders bleated they'd go bankrupt. Fletchers boss shifted blame to migrant Irish builders.

Disastrous CERA: No one took responsibility for shoddy house repairs, like shoddy jack 'n pack foundations, or cracked, painted-over gib boards, or epoxy-glued concrete seen all over Christchurch. It was similar blame-shifting like at the Royal Commission of Inquiry into PGC & CTV bldg collapses, where owners, engineers, cops, firemen, Council shifted blame to others.

20.10.15. The Press reported that more than 6 500 EQC repaired homes needed re-repairs due to shoddy repairs done by EQC.

Copyright Mark JS Esslemont.

See Tourism body Christchurch looks like a war zone (The Press / Stuff Co).

See Construction site look reflects rebirth Vicky Buck (The Press / Stuff Co).

See Bexley suburb returns to nature (The Press / Stuff Co).

See Army exercises upsets Christchurch red zoners (The Press / Stuff Co).

See Gerry Brownlee targets cowboy builders after EQC foundation review (The Press / Stuff Co).

See No responsibility on Fletcher EQR for shoddy quake repairs contract suggests (The Press / Stuff Co).

See Survey of Canterbury quake repairs caned by critics and advocates (The Press / Stuff Co).

See Building industry hits back at claims it is solely to blame for shoddy quake repairs (The Press / Stuff Co)

See Six out of seven IAG repairs found to be deficient in govt investigation (The Press / Stuff Co).

See More than 6500 homes need fix after faulty EQC repairs (The Press / Stuff Co).

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Mount Hay by Lake Tekapo, Mackenzie Country

Map ref: BY17 049306. Mount Hay is a vast sheep station on the east side of Lake Tekapo, bounded by Boundary Stream & Richmond Station in the north, Mt Ardmore, 2003 m & Mt Edward 1916 m in the east, Sawdon Station & Lake Tekapo Regional Park in the south. In the middle of Mount Hay Station is Mt Hay itself, 1174 m & next to it Wee McGregor 1146 m, below soaring Two Thumbs Range.

Since our arrival at Lake Tekapo over a year ago, I'd mingled with tourists climbing Mt John 1031 m, rising above the opposite shore of Lake Tekapo & from its heights plotted my route up Mt Hay, from a distance. Leah worked with one of the owners of Mount Hay station who welcomed me to wander Mount Hay Station.

I did a couple of Mount Hay recce walks in December 2014, to a lateral moraine ridge above Edward Stream below Mt Edward & in Sawdon Station, up steep Sawdon Hill 1026 m, also above Edward Stream. Map ref: BY17 038231.

Tues 10.02.15, 9 am. Although drought time, it was time to climb Mt Hay. After dropping Leah off at Lake Tekapo School, I parked my car at the bottom of Ebenezer Ln, off Lilybank Rd, in the Regional Park. I wandered through a pine forest to Mount Hay Station gate, then wandered between 2 dry, stony hills past a dry dam. I wandered round a hill on a farm track & continued along the farm track towards dry Mt Edward. There'd been little rain over the past couple of months so the land was dry.

As my average tramping speed is about 3 km / hour, I gave myself 6 hours to complete Mt Hay climb & return circuit, before fetching Leah at 3.30 pm after school. From my Lake Tekapo Topo 50 map, I guesstimated my return trek to be 20 km, about 12 miles.

Continuing towards Mt Edward, I passed through a farm gate & passed several dry tarns beneath willows. Sheep, ducks & Canada geese scratched for water in the dry tarns. When I'd passed that way in December, the tarns were full. Later on I saw filled water troughs for sheep.

At the second farm gate, I changed direction away from Mt Edward & headed cross-country towards Mt Hay. There were brown rabbits of course, bounding away from me every now & again. Despite ubiquitous Pindone poisoning signs, like the rest of Mackenzie Country, Mount Hay Station was riddled with rabbit warrens. I'd seen them on Cowans Hill at Lake Tekapo, at Sawdon Station & Balmoral Station when I'd climbed Mt John.

After passing sheep at the east end of Roys Lagoon, a glacial kettlehole, I wandered up a lateral moraine ridge below Mt Hay southern slope. It was stony, with occasional large rocks on top, bulldozed by ancient glaciers. By one of the bigger rocks I found an A shaped rock shelter, big enough for a couple of sheep to shelter from stormy weather. I wondered who'd placed the floor stones in the shelter. Ancient Maori?

I came across another farm road & followed the stony road through glacial, dry, hummock country to a stony saddle on the east side of Mt Hay. Beyond the saddle, the road disappeared in the distance to the east of Wee McGregor up a Mt Ardmore ridge. Further east-nor'east, I saw Mt Maude 1797 m, Tekapo Saddle 1387 m & Mt Dobson 2095 m, merging northwards into the Two Thumbs Range.

From Mt Hay saddle I climbed the stony west ridge, which undulated at first, then swept nor'westwards up to Mt Hay summit. I wouldn't have liked to be on that exposed ridge when the nor' wester blew from Mt Cook summit, across Mt Stevenson, Gammack Range & Hall Range in the west & across Lake Tekapo.

Magnificent, 360 degree views on top of Mt Hay: East & west peaks already mentioned. Further south west, Ben Ohau Range looming above Old Man Range, Mary Range & Benmore. Further nor'east, Round Hill ski field below Mt Richmond. Looking northwards & nor'westwards, more peaks - Two Thumbs, Mt Chevalier, Mt Ajax, Mt Ross, Razor Back & Mt Gerald above McCauley River. Nor' westwards - Mt Sibbald & Mt Erebus above Godley River. Both rivers fed Lake Tekapo. At the head of Godley River I saw distant Mt Fletcher. At the edge of the Hall Range, Mt Mistake loured above the NW end of Lake Tekapo.

Southwards I saw Mt Hay farm bldgs & shelter belts & beyond to the Regional Park & Sawdon Station. In front of Mt Hay, westwards across Lake Tekapo, I saw Motuariki Island & behind the western shore, Cass River delta feeding Lake Tekapo from western ranges. Shelter belts showed Glenmore Station south of Cass River & Godley Peaks Station north of Cass River.

Every day at work Leah saw those peaks around Lake Tekapo. Some of her students came from stations around Lake Tekapo.

I'd summited Mt Hay in 3 hours, about 400 vertical metres. A couple of aerials fastened to poles were on top, one had a solar panel facing west. There was also a pyramid structure made from metal rods on top.

On the summit, amongst low-lying, sparse, Alpine vegetation, I saw scattered, green scab weed & scattered mats of tiny, yellow Raoulia daisies, covering rocks. There were also stunted matagouri & porcupine bushes on the summit. Brown skinks scuttled on the ground.

From Mt Hay summit a tussock slope went down behind the stony ridge, Down the tussock slope, I followed a fence back to the ridge, where the fence crossed the ridge. I retraced my path down the ridge to the saddle again.

I walked the gravel road a bit & descended Mt Hay lower, south western slope through matagouri. On the flats I passed mobs of sheep in paddocks. I wandered past a hill bounding the western end of Roys Lagoon. I greeted a bloke driving a truck, laying new shingle on farm roads. I crossed a hot, dry valley, eroded by overgrazing & rabbit warrens & crossed a hot, dry tarn back to my car. My return trek took me 3 hours.

Permission from station owners & hill walking fitness is needed. A cloudless day, I got sun burnt, as most of the natural terrain is treeless & desert like. I walked in closed shoes, shorts, shirt & hat. I backpacked water, food, longs, jersey, all weather parka, plastic mackintosh & space blanket. I cell phoned Leah from Mt Hay summit & took cell phone pics. On steep bits my walking stick was useful for support & fending off prickly matagouri & briar roses. During my 6 hour tramp I drank 1.5 litres Coca Cola (for sugar content & water) & a half litre water. I was still dehydrated afterwards. As the station has stock paddocks, I crossed many fences & farm gates.

Copyright Mark JS Esslemont.

Mount Michael, Allandale near Fairlie

Map ref: BY18 297206. We know South African expats who own a hilltop house on Mt Michael, close to Farm Barn Cafe, about 8 kms drive from Fairlie. Backing the house, a new stand of Oregon Pine, Psudotsuga menziesii was planted below a mature stand of  Pinus radiata, If a fire ever started in the pines, the house would go up in smoke. The hilltop house had panoramic views - Mt Fox in the west, Devils Peak & Blue Mountain in the east.

Mon 09.02.15. I parked my car by the hilltop house on Mt Michael, as I wanted to walk along the flat top of Mt Michael to 2 Telecom cell phone masts, about halfway along the top. At the back of the house I climbed through the Oregon pine plantation. Some of the topmost Oregon pine plantings were dried out by a wind funnel caused by the mature Pinus radiata trees. Grass was flattened on top too, giving a crop circle effect - swirled, flattened grass.

I climbed over a fence at the top & sidled along another fence by the pines, overlooking red deer in the steep paddock below, until I reached another fence to be climbed, by a paddock spotted with gorse. Thereafter the walk was straight forward, through paddocks, past 2 hilltop pines, to a wooden stock pen. near the Telecom gravel road.

Alpine views were magnificent with Fairlie centre stage, part surrounded by low Brothers Range east, higher Albury Range west & Mt Michael itself north east, about the same height as Brothers Range. In the distance below low cloud, I saw a helicopter whopping above the gravel road going up Middle Valley from Raincliffs. I was higher than the helicopter. In the north, Opuha dam was low due to low summer rains.

It was harvest time below with golden wheat fields & hay fields drying out, both sides of Mt Michael, some fields already harvested with hay bales dotting the landscape. Beyond low ranges, south eastwards were high Alpine peaks: Mt Nimrod on the way to Timaru, Mt Nessing closer to Fairlie. Albury Range obscuring Mackenzie Pass between Dalgety Range & unseen Rollesby Range.

At the other end of Albury Range, westwards I saw Burkes Pass winding towards Mt Maude & distant Mt Edward. Most days, Leah bussed Burkes Pass to teach at Lake Tekapo School. Viewing northwards across Tekapo Saddle, I saw Mt Dobson, Stoneleigh Saddle, Mt Richmond, then Mt Fox Range, snowless in sunny February. In the north was Butlers Saddle & High Claytons going east to Blue Mountain, Devils Peak & Mt Walker. We twisted past those last 3 mountains, on our drive down Mt Michael, whenever we drove to Geraldine.

Upon reaching the stock pens. I went up the gravel road to the Telcom masts & enjoyed the views both sides of Mt Michael. I didn't go further along Mt Michael top, as I didn't want to disturb sheep in one of the paddocks,

I quickly returned to my car at the hilltop house, as Pacific low clouds scudded up the valleys, both sides of Brothers Range - Middle Valley & the valley going down to Timaru. Half an hour later, by the time I got to my car it was raining. The first decent rain, after hot & dry December - January days.

Copyright Mark JS Esslemont.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Raincliff Forest Tracks

Flanking Middle Valley Rd, Raincliff Forest is about 17 kms from Fairlie, in hilly farmland below Southern Alps.

At Raincliff Forest car park, a Blakely Pacific Limited sign board stated:

Originally planted around 1890 this 84 hectare forest is a managed unit now owned and operated by Blakely Pacific Limited.

It is Blakely Pacific's intention that harvesting and replanting will continue to recognise and preserve the unique character of this forest.

The forest contains a wide variety of exotic trees and you are invited to wander the marked walkways throughout this area...

The sign board showed the following Raincliff Forest tracks:

Hoare Track 60 mins
Mackay Track 40 mins
Johnson Track 15 mins
Burnetts Track 10 mins
Burkes Track 10 mins

Below Middle Valley Rd, a dirt road, Leah & I wandered part of Hoare Track, near Raincliff Stream. We also wandered Burnetts Track & Burkes Track which joined Hoare Track. Although a hot summer's day, mature forest gave us shade. Bobbing fantails entertained us in the understory when they flew around us checking us out.

Some mature, exotic trees we saw in Raincliff Forest:

* Redwood, Sequoiadendron giganteum
* Norway spruce, Picea abies
* Ponderosa pine, Pinus ponderosa
* Monterey cypress, Cupressus macrocarpa. Our old walking sticks are homemade Macrocarpa, so we were looking out for fresh windfalls. Prunings we found had lain around a while & were brittle, useless for good walking sticks.
* Oak, Quercus
* Ash, Fraxinus excelsior
* European larch, Larix decidua
* Radial pine, Pinus radiata
* Birch, Pendula
* Gum, Eucalyptus
* Oregon pine, Pseudotsuga menziesii
* Alder & Crack Willow along Raincliff Stream

Kiwis moan about wilding pines in Mackenzie Country. I thought pines were attractive & useful for windbreaks, inhaling carbon & stopping soil erosion. I hated all the Crack Willows polluting NZ river banks & lake shores. Why didn't Kiwis get rid of polluting Willows & replace them with native river trees?

An exotic / native mix of understorey plants in Raincliff Forest:


* Sycamore, Acer pseudplatanus. One of the exotics I loath as it's a prolific seeder.
* Holly, Ilex
* Gorse, Ulex europaeus, some pest sprayed
* Ivy, Hedera
* Blackberry, Rubus fruticosus


* Pittosporum eugenoides
* Pittosporum tenuifolium
* Fern species
* Broom, Carmichaelia
* Bush lawyer, Rubus cissoides
* Broadleaf, Griselinia littoralis
* Cabbage tree, Cordyline australis
* Whiteywood, Melicytus ramiflorus
* Wineberry, Aristotelia serrata
* Five finger, Pseudopanax arboreus
* Pepper tree, Horopito, Pseudowintera colorata

Tracks were well maintained, shared-use tracks with MTBs. As it was a hot, nor'wester day we had Raincliff Forest to ourselves.

Four days later we returned to wander Raincliff Forest tracks above Middle Valley Rd. We wandered the other bit of Hoare Track & Mackay Track, which formed a slender figure 8 walk. It took us about 2.5 hours, much longer than the recommended times on the car park board. Presumably those times were for MTBs. Sometimes an MTB track paralleled the walking track, avoiding many wooden stairs up steep slopes. Besides tall forest trees, there were magnificent views of distant Fox Peak & Devils Peak, seen from the western extremity of Hoare Track.

Copyright Mark JS Esslemont.